Friday, November 25, 2016

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Meyer Lemon


It's the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., and hopefully you've got some good soup stock simmering on the stove, made with the leftover carcass from all that turkey you gobbled down yesterday. 
 This recipe, from Domenica Marchetti's "Rustic Italian" cookbook, is just the antidote for turkey overload.
These garlicky-lemony pork chops are so succulent, you'll be tempted to gnaw the bones down to the last morsel -- not to mention swiping and swishing some crusty bread through that luscious sauce in the pan. I can't blame you since that's just what we did.
Start by sautéing thinly sliced garlic and fresh bay leaves (or dried) in olive oil.
Remove them and set aside, then brown some lemon slices in the oil. Then remove the lemon slices while you put in the pork chops.
Season and brown the pork chops, then put the garlic, lemon and bay leaves back in. Add a splash of white wine and lemon juice and cook until done.
A lot of people complain that pork chops are too dry, but that's mostly because they're cooked too long. Cook just until the meat feels springy, and there's some "give" to the meat.
Here's another way to test doneness. Make a fist. The pork chop should sort of feel like the piece of flesh at the base of the thumb where it attaches to your hand (before the thumb reaches the wrist).
 If the pork chop is a teensy bit pink, it's ok.
Don't cook it too long, or you'll be eating a hard, overcooked piece of meat.

The herbal and lemon flavors blend so well in this recipe, and it was so easy and quick to make, I'll be coming back to this one again and again. Thanks Domenica.


Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Meyer Lemon
(Costole di Maiale in Padella)
From Domenica Marchetti's "Rustic Italian" cookbook
printable recipe here

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
4 fresh bay leaves, or 6 dried bay leaves
2 Meyer lemons, 1 thinly sliced and 1 halved
4 bone-in, center-cut pork chops, 6-8 oz. each
(I used 2 very thick pork chops that weighed 1.5 lbs. total)
1/2 cup dry white wine 

fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil, garlic and bay leaves over medium-low heat. Sauté until the garlic is lightly golden and the oil is infused with the aroma of garlic and bay leaf, about 5 minutes. Transfer the garlic and bay leaves to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to the heat and add the lemon slices. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate with the garlic and bay leaves.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Arrange in the pan and raise the heat to medium high. Sear until nicely browned on the bottom, 2-3 minutes. Turn the chops and cook until browned on the other side, 2-3 minutes longer. Since my two pork chops were very thick, I decided to add some white wine at this point to Domenica's recipe to help them cook more quickly. Let the wine boil down for a minute. Squeeze the lemon halves over the chops and turn to coat them with the juice. Return the garlic, bay leaves and lemon slices to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook (with a lid, if the chops are very thick, as mine were) until the chops are cooked through - 3-4 minutes longer. The pork chop should spring back but still feel tender if gently pressed with a finger, and the center should be very slightly pink.

Transfer the pork chops to a serving platter and spoon the pan juices, along with the lemon slices, over the top. Serve right away.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Brining and Roasting a Turkey


This is a blog post from five years ago, but with Thanksgiving on Thursday, many of you might need a refresher on how to brine and roast a turkey:
It's almost that time folks. Are you ready to roast that big bird or are you running from the task quicker than you can say turkey trot?  To all of you with trepidation in your soul at the thought of tackling this job, fear not -- I have one word to help you achieve success -- and it rhymes with fine. No, it's not wine -- although a glass of chardonnay or pinot noir for the cook never hurts. The word folks is brine. Since the first time I brined a turkey years ago, I have never looked back. It's a fail-proof way to ensure a moist, flavorful turkey, even if you forget to baste it and even if you roast it a little longer than required.  
Mix salt, sugar, herbs and spices with water and bring to a boil.
Dump the brining mixture over the turkey and add ice cubes (unless you have a refrigerator large enough to contain the large bucket). Let it sit overnight.
Roast the turkey over a bed of celery, carrots and onions and with some whole heads of garlic strewn all around the pan. Baste occasionally.
I leave the carving to my dad, but it's the same way you would carve a chicken. Remove the legs, thighs and wings, then remove each half of the breast in its entirety from the carcass.
Cut the breast in slices and place all the meat on a serving platter surrounded with the whole roasted heads of garlic.
gobble, gobble!


Turkey Brine
(Makes enough for up to a 24 lb. turkey)

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 gallon water
2 T. black peppercorns
1 T. allspice berries
1 onion, sliced
1 large bunch sage
6 bay leaves
ice cubes

The day before (or night before) you want to cook the turkey:

Using a 5-gallon bucket, line it with a plastic bag. Put the salt, sugar, onion, herbs and spices in a pot on the range with only two cups of water taken from the one gallon of water called for in the recipe. Bring to a boil and stir everything to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat and add some ice cubes to cool it off, plus about half of the remaining water. Put the thawed turkey in the plastic bag in the bucket and add the water and herb mixture. If the bucket needs more water to cover the turkey, add it now.

Since I can't fit the bucket into my refrigerator, I always place it outdoors on the deck, adding ice cubes to the water to make sure it stays cool. It's never been a problem here in New Jersey in late November, and sometimes it's gotten so cold that the top layer of water has frozen.  I don't want to take any risks though, so I always add the ice cubes. Twist the top of the bag and secure it closed. To keep squirrels or birds from pecking into the bag during the night or before it goes into the oven, place a flat baking pan on the top and weigh it down with something heavy. Let it sit overnight and soak.

The next day, drain the turkey from the liquid before roasting.  Pat dry, then place your hand between the skin and the breast meat and spread some butter inside with some sage leaves. Alternately, make an herb butter, mixing some softened butter with minced sage, rosemary or other herbs.

Roasting Method

After rubbing butter between the skin and the breast meat, place the turkey in a pan that has a bed of celery sticks, carrots and onion chunks. Take several whole heads of garlic and slice a shallow slice off the top. Spread them in the corners of the pan. If you're not stuffing the turkey, place some onion chunks, fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme or a combo) and a couple of lemons that have been halved, in the cavity. Rub the outer skin with a stick of butter that's been softened. Roast turkey according to timetable below, basting occasionally. If the breast starts to get overly browned, make a tent with aluminum foil and cover loosely. If wings get overly browned and the rest of the turkey still needs cooking, wrap the wings in aluminum foil. The total roasting time will depend on whether the turkey is stuffed or not.
Here are the roasting times recommended by the USDA. If you're checking with a meat thermometer, the USDA says the turkey is safely cooked once the thickest part of the breast and thigh reach a minimal internal temperature of 165 degrees. Full roasting instructions from the USDA are here.

Timetables for Turkey Roasting
(325 °F oven temperature) 
Unstuffed
4 to 8 pounds (breast)1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds4½ to 5 hours

Stuffed
4 to 6 pounds (breast)Not usually applicable
6 to 8 pounds (breast)2½ to 3½ hours
8 to 12 pounds3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds4 to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds4¼ to 4¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds4¾ to 5¼ hours

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Roasted Acorn Squash


This has to be one of the easiest, most delicious and most colorful side dishes you can make for your Thanksgiving table - or for any fall or winter meal, really.
Acorn squash, aside from its rich taste and nutritious qualities, has the added benefit of thin, edible skin - no peeling necessary.
The hardest part is cutting the slices -- you need a sturdy knife and steady hand.
But once that's done, you simply roast the slices in the oven, then sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top, with a drizzle of balsamic syrup, and a scattering of fresh herbs. I've used parsley and lemon balm, but if you're a cilantro fan, that would be welcome too.

Roasted Acorn Squash 

Wash the squash thoroughly, then cut in half. Remove seeds, then cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Coat each side of the slices with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and herbs. I use a homemade herb salt, but you can mince some fresh or dry herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sprinkle on top.

Place on a cookie sheet and put into a preheated 425 degree oven. They'll need only 5 to 7 minutes, after which you'll flip to the other side. They're done when they pierce easily with a fork. Remove them to a platter, then drizzle a balsamic glaze on top. (If you can't find balsamic glaze in the store, make your own by boiling down supermarket balsamic vinegar until thick and syrupy.) 
Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and scatter fresh herb leaves on top (I use either parsley or lemon balm or a combination of the two.)
 
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Pork Tenderloin and Cannellini Beans



If you're looking for an easy, delicious way to serve a crowd (Election Day comfort food perhaps?) that's also healthy and reasonably priced, pork tenderloin is your answer. 
I love any cuts of pork, particularly the shoulder, which is loaded with fat, resulting in savory meat that falls off the bone. That, however, takes 12 hours to cook with this recipe, if you're interested.
I'm more likely to buy the tenderloin when time is a factor, and even though it's so lean, with proper seasonings and accompaniments, it can be just as satisfying as the fattier cuts of pork.
After seeing an Instagram photo from my friend Domenica of her cannelloni beans soaking, I was inspired to do the same as an accompaniment to the pork.
  I've had friends say that they made dried beans that ended up too hard, probably from not cooking long enough. That's happened to me too and the way I prepare them now to avoid that is this way: 
Wash the beans and drain them, then put into a pot with water about one inch above the beans and bring to a rolling boil for a couple of minutes. Skim off the scum that forms. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit in the water overnight.
The next morning, drain the beans, add fresh water to cover, plus a few squirts of olive oil and some fresh sage. Let the beans simmer for two hours, then turn off the heat and let the beans sit for a few more hours.
Come back to the beans before you're ready to serve them and test for doneness. They should be soft enough now, but if not, cook a little longer. Drain the beans again, saving some of the cooking liquid.
Place a healthy amount of olive oil (1/4 cup or so) on the bottom of a clean pot, add as much minced garlic as you like (I like a lot); briefly soften over mild heat, then add the beans back to the pot, to reheat. At this point, season them with salt and other herbs of your choosing - sage and/or rosemary are nice here. (don't add the salt before the beans are soft or it will impede the cooking). Add a little more olive oil if you like (a few tablespoons), and some of the reserved cooking liquid if they seem too dry (but not too much, since you're going to have more liquid from the roast to drizzle on later).
 I flavored the beans using some of the seasoned salts I made from some of the herbs growing in my garden - thyme, sage, rosemary, lemon balm and bay leaf. If you've still got herbs growing in your garden, it's not too late to make the salt. It makes a great hostess gift. Just cut the herbs, dry them on a cookie sheet and after a few days, put them in the food processor with some coarse salt. I used a salt from Sicily that I got from Gustiamo.com, but you could also use kosher salt.
The salt is fantastic on vegetables, fish and meats - in this case the pork tenderloin. Just slather some Dijon mustard on the pork, then sprinkle on a generous amount of the seasoned salt and a good grinding of fresh black pepper.
Cover it with aluminum foil, and roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes - 1 hour. Remove from oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. Reserve the liquid to pour over the roast later (Before serving it, I whirred it with a stick blender to make it more homogenous.)
Arrange the beans on the bottom of the serving dish, then place the sliced pork on top. Just before serving, pour the heated sauce on top. It's tender enough to eat with just a fork, and it's so easy and delicious, it'll become one of your go-to recipes.
Cannellini beans and pork tenderloin
printable recipe here

Pork Tenderloin
Smear pork tenderloin with Dijon mustard, then sprinkle on freshly ground black pepper and seasoned salts. (If you don't have seasoned salts, use some kosher salt and sprinkle on herbs de Provence, or use minced fresh rosemary, sage or a combination of herbs.)
Roast covered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes-one hour. Remove from oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the liquid from the pan, strain it and whir it with a stick blender to homogenize it (or use a whisk if you don't have a stick blender).

Arrange the cooked beans on the bottom of a serving dish, then slice the meat and place it on the beans. Finally, reheat the liquid and pour it over all the meat and beans.

Cannellini Beans
Wash the dry beans and drain them, then put into a pot and bring to a rolling boil for a couple of minutes. Skim off the scum that forms. turn off the heat and let the beans sit in the water overnight.
The next morning, drain the beans, add fresh water to cover, plus a few squirts of olive oil and some fresh sage. Let the beans simmer for two hours, then turn off the heat and let the beans sit for a few more hours.
Come back to the beans before you're ready to serve them and test for doneness. They should be soft enough now, but if not, cook a little longer. Drain the beans again, saving some of the cooking liquid.
Place a healthy amount of olive oil (1/4 cup or so) on the bottom of a clean pot, add as much minced garlic as you like (I like a lot); briefly soften over mild heat, then add the beans back to the pot. to reheat. At this point, season them with salt and other herbs of your choosing - sage and/or rosemary are nice here. (don't add the salt before the beans are soft or it will impede the cooking). Add a little more olive oil if you like (a few tablespoons), and some of the reserved cooking liquid if they seem too dry.

 Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 

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